I have a service in the form of a node.js application set up with Systemd on Raspbian Jessie and it is using its own user account. However, I am finding that the service does not run correctly because it does not have the necessary permissions. One of the node modules I installed requires root access. If I run the application manually with sudo everything works fine.

Is there a way to tell systemd to run the service with sudo?

  • 3
    How does your unit file looks like, add it to your question? Normally systemd runs the unit files with root rights.
    – Thomas
    Oct 2, 2016 at 11:57

4 Answers 4


tell systemd to run the service with sudo?

sudo has nothing to with it.

Typically you instruct systemd to run a service as a specific user/group with a User= and Group= directive in the [Service] section of the unit file.

Set those to root (or remove them, as running as root is the default).

  • 2
    I had it set up to use a specific user as I was using a guide to configure it. However in my case this wasn't appropriate. I removed this to run as root by default and now everything works!
    – Luke
    Oct 3, 2016 at 15:07
  • 6
    Running as root is not quite the same as running with User=root. See my answer. May 1, 2018 at 13:38
  • 2
    Where can this file be edited?
    – Matthew
    Nov 1, 2018 at 13:53
  • serverfault.com/a/840999/37681
    – HBruijn
    Nov 1, 2018 at 14:41

To clear, systemd system services run as root by default, but there is still a difference between the default behavior and running a system service with User=root.

As documented in Environment variables in spawned processes, these variables are only set if User= is set:


I tested to confirm this finding. So if you want to run a systemd service as root that needs one of the above variables, you need to set User=root.

  • Thank you! That was the only thing that worked for me on an application that I have Mar 2, 2019 at 17:55
  • 4
    NB if you set User=root you should probably also set Group=root :) superuser.com/a/1452367/39364
    – rogerdpack
    Jun 24, 2019 at 15:29

a temporary solution, but got it to work in a pinch:

/usr/bin/sudo /bin/bash -lc 'bundle exec rails server -e demo -p 80'

Can run with a user who has sudo privileges in a systemd unit file like so:

Description=Rails Webserver

ExecStart=/usr/bin/sudo /bin/bash -lc 'bundle exec rails server -e demo -p 80'

  • 1
    This has multiple issues: First, the first two answers explain why using a user and then sudo is unnecessary, and show the right way to do it. Second, you shouldn't be running your webapp as root anyway. Third, your web app should be behind a normal web server such as nginx. Oct 25, 2018 at 2:45
  • I won't disagree with you on any of your points. But if someone, like myself, wanted a bare-bones, as-fast-as-you-can standup of a server, this is a viable option that works.
    – daino3
    Oct 25, 2018 at 2:47
  • Almost as fast as you can. Obviously using sudo will slow down startup a bit. And it's unnecessary. Oct 25, 2018 at 2:48
  • @MichaelHampton I'm trying to write a backdoor, so I've found this answer to be helpful! Dec 3, 2019 at 22:48
  • @daino no, using sudo has no defence, It is not necessary. It IS run as root by default.
    – RichieHH
    Feb 21, 2020 at 20:22

Run it as a system user in this case by default the service is running as root.

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